Archive for the ‘point of view’ Category

I always used to think writing from  first person Point of view was cheating, because its easy, you just put yourself in a persons position and then you let rip on your thoughts. Now I dont feel that way at all. As long as use the first person POV correctly its actually a very powerful tool.

There arent many books that I have read from a first person POV that have really felt that authentic, because there is a tendency for your character in your POV to know everything, but the truth is you only know your own perspective, and unless you impart the individuality of the character in that perspective then there is very little to be gained from writing in that way.

Probably the most famous first person POV book is Catcher in the Rye, and you are sucked into holden caulfields perspective of the world, and his perspective alone. Its probably been twenty years since i read that book and yet If faced with a small excerpt from it, I would recognise it immediately, Because the voice is so brilliantly distinctive.

Another book that stuck with me was John Fowles The Collector – such a dark book, again, I havent read it for a very long time, and I probably should read it again because I think i was about 14 when i read it and it kind of blew my mind a little. Its such a dark book. What struck me about the main character was that there was something wrong with him, his perspective was all wrong, he had a bitter view of the world and of the people in it, he saw himself as an outsider (although I think we all do) and it really struck me as imparting some of the things you think but you never say out loud. Thats where I think the first person POV is so useful, because you can create a language that creates the individual, unlike with dialogue.

A clockwork orange exemplifies this perfectly, the language is so alien and yet it doesn’t take long for the audience to understand it. It creates a feeling for the man ALEX and helps us to understand how he doesn’t play by the rules, not even the rules of language. Another book where the first person POV is used so well, to create the world inside the characters mind.

It took me a long time to make the transition from writing in first person to writing in third person with one persons perspective at the forefront, its an important skill to have – being an outsider looking in, but only having the inside of one characters thoughts to draw on. I never really understood why it was important not to change between perspectives in a chapter until I heard other people doing it – its very confusing and it pulls you out of the story if you have to keep adjusting the person you empathise most with in each “scene”. There are many older books that have an all encompassing view where you can see what everyone is thinking and feeling, but that actually requires an awful lot of skill to pull off and i wouldnt recommend it. Its pretty rare too.

I have recently read the outlander series, which i have mentioned before. The first book is exclusively written from the main characters POV – but this changes in later books and i feel that was because it became hard to explain how she knew things, and also her POV made her a little dislikeable to me, because she was a real know it all. I didnt feel like the first person POV was used in the way that I described in the other stories, i didnt feel like I was in a world inside her head, I felt like she was constantly relaying things to me that she probably wouldnt have known. This also involves her “husband” Jamie giving her a detailed account of the rape he encountered at the hands of Captain Black jack Randall – just so that she could relay the information to us, because otherwise there was no way for her to know. It just involved a little too many people trusting her. Dont get me wrong, i loved the book, I read the first 5 books in about 4 weeks, but i noticed a change in the writing style as the books went on. The only first person POV we get is from the original main character, but we get a few other third person POV’s including jamie her daughter and some bloke called Roger. This lead to a much richer and believable experience as a reader as we got to see things through other characters eyes. Although quite a few of them seemed to be obsessed with breast feeding fully grown men and this seemed to be an oversight to me, as though it could have been restricted to one or two characters as opposed to all of them. maybe thats just me though.

In my new book I have one character thread which is told from a first person POV and i have to say it was so hard to write. Where i used to find it so easy to do that, now I had trained myself to write the other way. What got me most was trying to create a person from the inside, not the outside view, because our opinion of ourselves is rarely the way others see us. For instance people are often telling me how laid back I am – this could not be further from the truth HA! So trying to impart how someone else sees you but also be in your own head, is pretty tricky stuff. Also being honest with the first things that come to mind, because you are no holds barred inside someones head, and thoughts come before they get filtered for public consumption, so dont be afraid of the horrible thoughts put them in the story and then you can edit them at a later time if you think they are too much.

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